A recent Gallup/Wall Street Journal poll researching the opinions and perceptions among western mainstream journalists took many by surprise – Russian President Vladimir Putin was deemed their overwhelming favorite story topic. The poll demonstratively shows Putin is a gift that keeps on giving for anyone writing on the authoritarian leader.
An overwhelming 94% of journalists polled agreed that Putin is the subject western audiences cannot get enough of. One journalist who asked not be named appeared to echo the sentiment of many queried, “No matter how wrong and inaccurate one writes about the Russian president there is no downside, my editor says I am a wonder boy who can’t fail.” Another journalist polled from a prominent Washington media organization stated “little or no knowledge of Putin is actually a plus when writing about Russia, that way you have no doubts or pangs of conscience when we write nonsense.”
Among self-described conservative journalists polled another trend stands out. Conservative journalists see Putin as a politician who is “decisive, competent, and a leader.” When asked to compare Putin to U.S. President Barack Obama, the conservatives were dismissive – the phrase that captured this sentiment is all encompassing, “Who do you want at your back when all hell breaks lose?”
Most liberal journalists are more circumspect according to the poll. While they point out Putin’s aggression on the world stage and authoritarianism at home, they were hard pressured pressed to provide examples and agreed upon facts supporting either assumptions. One reply is telling, “Putin is a thug because…well… he is a thug. America only invades foreign countries to bring democracy and freedom. Russia’s foreign policy is…well…not very American.”
In a rare admission one journalist with some knowledge of Russia responded, “When Obama leaves office he will be quickly forgotten – like he never happened, maybe his legacy will be transgender toilet reform in the country’s elementary schools, but Putin is another matter. Speaking as a journalist, I hope he stays around – that guy is story to be told.” He added, “I demonize Putin, yeah I do! It pays my bills! I have obligations, you know. We all have to make a living.”